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Pekeng bigas: NFA confident no plastic, fake, rice in the market

By Romel Lopez, News5

Photo: Video clip spreading in social media circles about fake rice.
The National Food Authority, on which is vested the function of ensuring food security and the stability of supply and price of the staple grain – rice, has assured the public that there is no proof that so-called fake rice, in the form of plastic material extruded to look like grains of rice, is being sold widely in the market.

The pronouncement comes in the face of a video that has been circulating in social media circles pertaining to a Netizens experience with the so-called “pekeng bigas”.

NFA is said to conduct daily monitoring of the situation in the rice market, and the reports in social media pertaining to alleged fake or plastic rice are being verified by NFA’s investigation and enforcement department.

NFA has released guidelines for the public to ensure that what they are buying is real rice.

Photo: NFA tips on dealing with fake rice.
For raw rice, consumers should make sure that they buying only from retailers accredited by the NFA or from their “suki” rather than from vendors they do not know or trust. An NFA accredited store displays the trader’s full name and license number.

If the grains are uniformly-sized, there’s a chance they may have been made by a machine. All rice grains have a chalky dot or scar at the tip of the kernel where the germ or embryo was removed. It looks like a small groove at the tip of each grain of rice.

Aside from the appearance, consumers should also be aware of the smell of rice. If it smells anything like plastic or any synthetic material, it should be subjected to laboratory analysis to ascertain the composition of the “grain.”

For cooked rice, consumers must also make sure it does not smell unusual. There should be no foam like substance left on top of the rice when cooked.

If one feels ill from eating any suspected fake rice, it is best to see a doctor immediately.

Photo:NFA Bantay Bigas hotline number.
Sample of the rice, at least 1 kilogram, should be brought to the NFA-FDC for analysis. For those who cannot go to NFA directly, they may give their address and contact details so that NFA agents can get the samples from them.

Anyone may contact the NFA Bantay Bigas Hotline 0906-4363133 to report any complaints related to suspected fake rice or rice trading violations.


Video link:


Fake mayor nabbed for duping victims of millions

By Marlene Alcaide, News5 | Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan, Philippine News Agency
Photo: Lino Espinosa Lim Jr., who allegedly duped hi victims of millions of pesos by claiming to be a mayor close to Pres Duterte and other top government officials, during his presentation at the NBI. (image from News5 video)

MANILA, Philippines — A man posing as a mayor from Masbate province has been arrested for luring people into coughing up millions of pesos by claiming close ties to President Rodrigo Duterte and other ranking government officials.

Lino Espinosa Lim Jr., who claimed to be the chief executive of Uson, Masbate, was presented by the National Bureau of Investigation on Monday.

NBI deputy director Ferdinand Lavin said Lim, against whom warrants of arrest had been issued by trial courts in Mandaluyong and Parañaque cities for a string of estafa (fraud) cases, was arrested Friday by the agency’s Special Action Unit at a coffee shop in Quezon City.

He had been eluding attempts to entrap him for a month following the complaint of his latest victim who he duped of P14.5 million, the NBI said.

Lavin said Lim would convince his victims by saying he was close to, among others, Duterte, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, and lawyer Fred Lim of the Philippine Gaming Corporation. At times he also posed as a casino junket operator.

Lim would ask his victims, among them South Koreans, to invest in supposed schemes that would earn them as much as 20 percent monthly. But when they asked him about their investments later, he would make excuses and eventually could no longer be contacted.

Lavin urged other victims of Lim to come forward and file complaints against him.

He said three other victims have appeared before the NBI and said they lost a total of P10 million.


Rizal still alive, relevant to look-alikes

By: Kimmy Baraoidan, Maricar Cinco - @inquirerdotnetInquirer Southern Luzon / 03:19 AM June 20, 2017

Photo: Jose Rizal look-alikes stand in the premises of the Rizal Shrine during the celebration of Rizal’s 156th birth anniversary in Calamba City, Laguna. (PHOTO BY KIMMY BARAOIDAN /INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON)

CALAMBA CITY — At first glance, one would think that Jose Neri, 57, a local vendor, was national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal back from the dead and walking around the premises of Rizal’s ancestral house, now “Museo ni Rizal” (Rizal Museum), clad in dark-colored slacks and coat, book in hand.

Neri won this year’s Rizal look-alike contest held during the celebration of the national hero’s 156th birth anniversary. Neri, the oldest of this year’s contestants, said he always won the title since the contest was launched in 2014.

This year, Neri competed against four other contestants, among them an incoming grade 10 student Keanu Gabriel Destura, 14, the youngest contender. Neri was urged by his nephew to join, while Destura was inspired by his teacher.

Not only do Neri and Destura emulate Rizal physically, but they also strive to be like the national hero in their actions and in their everyday lives.

Destura admires Rizal for his patriotism, resolve, and willingness to give his life for the country.

“Respect for his fellowmen, that is what I apply to myself, also being humble,” said Neri.

“He is usually the youth’s inspiration, and he also serves as a model for the youth in doing good deeds,” Destura said.

“Maybe if Rizal were still alive, he would not allow the unrest that is happening now. He really wanted peace,” said Neri.

“Jose Rizal was the first to believe in the power of paper and pen to rouse from slumber our fellowmen during the time of enslavement and cruelty by the Spanish,” said Laguna governor Ramil Hernandez in a message during the celebration.

“Rizal had a mission—to make people realize that we should be united first before we can be great,” said Professor Dwight David Diestro, who taught the mandatory history course about Rizal’s life and works at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

However, Rizal’s mission is yet to be realized. Diestro added, “The struggle is within. Our worst enemy is ourselves, for he said, ‘A people can be independent without being free.’” SFM


AFP: ‘Shabu’fuels Maute fighters

By: Allan Nawal, Julie S. Alipala, Richel Umel - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Photo: DRUG HAUL Military officers present packs of “shabu” reportedly seized from a house used by terrorists in Marawi City. —RICHEL UMEL

MARAWI CITY — “Shabu” is keeping the terrorists holed up in Marawi City tenacious despite their dwindling numbers, slowing the advance of government troops, the military said on Monday.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army’s 1st Infanty Division, said the military reached the conclusion about the terrorists’ use of shabu, or crystal meth, after the recovery on Sunday evening of 11 pieces of 1-kilogram packs of the illegal drug from a house used by the terrorists as cover in clashes with government troops.

Found by troops from the 49th Infantry Battalion, the shabu was estimated to be worth P110 million to P250 million, Herrera said.

“This validated the observation of our troops that the enemies were suicidal and appeared to be drug-crazed,” Herrera said, adding that drug paraphernalia and at least four rifles and a black flag of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria were also found in the house.

Capt. Eric Estrevillo, the civil-military officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, said IS-inspired gunmen from the Maute terror group held the house for about a week and put up fierce resistance before troops captured it on Sunday.

“[The gunmen] appeared [to be] very energetic and high on drugs,” Estrevillo said.

The military estimates that up to 120 terrorists are holed up in buildings, houses and mosques in the commercial district of Marawi.

Herrera said the drug-fueled determination of the terrorists and their use of high-powered firearms, such as antitank weapons, and fuel bombs were slowing the advance of government troops.

He said the terrorists also used fuel bombs during a clash with government forces on May 31 that cost the lives of 13 Marines.

Herrera said the government troops continued to advance and had killed 257 terrorists since May 23.

He said three soldiers were killed in fighting on Sunday, bringing the government’s losses to 62, including three policemen.

Twenty-six civilians have died in the fighting since the crisis began four weeks ago.

One of those killed on Sunday was Cpl. Arshid Isirani of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 5, who was shot by a sniper in the chest.

Isirani’s remains were flown back to his home in Zamboanga City on Monday, Herrera said.

Herrera said the military had sent in another battalion to fight the Maute terrorists and their allies from the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.

He said airstrikes, artillery and ground attacks also continued on Monday.

Commercial drones
Aside from using high-rise buildings and mosques to stage attacks, the terrorists were also using technology to determine the position of advancing government troops.

“They have used drones, the commercial ones that we can buy anywhere,” he said.

Soldiers have shot down several of the terrorists’ drones, he said.

Herrera denied that the military had been using poison bombs against the terrorists.

“Please do not believe what you read on social media. Your Armed Forces is a Constitution-based organization and we follow international laws on warfare,” he said.

Herrera added that the military was trying to rescue as many civilians as it could from the war zone.

“Last night, we rescued another trapped civilian, bringing the total to 1,637,” he said.

The fighting began on May 23 when Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen laid siege to Marawi after a failed military attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who had pledged allegiance to IS.

The military was caught by surprise and President Duterte declared martial law in all of Mindanao to crush the terrorists’ attempt to establish an IS enclave in Mindanao.

Bigger US role
Foreign fighters have been killed in the fighting, including from Middle Eastern countries and Chechnya, indicating IS fighters returning from Iraq and Syria are opening a new front—in Southeast Asia.

The developments in Mindanao have raised significant alarm in Washington.

US Defense Secretary Jim Matthis told Congress last week that a long-running US military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago.

Small numbers of US Special Forces remain in an “advise and assist” role, and the United States is providing aerial surveillance to help Philippine troops retake Marawi from the terrorists, he said.

But US lawmakers, including from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, want a bigger US role, short of boots on the ground.

They fear the area is becoming a new hub for IS fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond.

“I don’t know that Isis are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region,” said Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, using another acronym for IS. “We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control.” —With a report from AP



SC's Bersamin says trust Duterte on martial law

MANILA – Just "trust the good judgment of the President," Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin said during oral arguments on Tuesday, June 13, – if petitioners are unable to produce proof that shows there is insufficient basis to declare martial law.
"I believe that the proclamation may be sufficient," Bersamin said, adding that he is willing to presume good faith and regularity on the part of government in the absence of evidence indicating otherwise.
During his interpellation of lawyer Ephraim Cortez during Day 1 of oral arguments on President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Bersamin emphasized that the burden of proof of showing the proclamation is invalid falls on the petitioners.
"Make an argument on the burden of proof," Bersamin told Cortez, "because this is a big thing for me." He grilled Cortez, asking him what standard of proof the High Court should impose – is it the magnitude of killing, damage to property, magnitude of violence, or the number of bodies?
"What do we need to review? You are not providing us material to review," Bersamin told Cortez, who maintained that because of the SC's constitutional power to review the basis of martial law, it can compel even President Duterte, to provide the necessary information.
"I cannot compel the President, you know that very well," Bersamin retorted.
Bersamin got Cortez to agree that in the absence of a clear standard, the determination of whether there is sufficient basis for the declaration of martial law is up to the good judgment of the High Court.
Bersamin followed with: "You leave that to the good judgment of the court, as you would leave the proclamation of martial law to the good judgment of the President." (READ: SC's Del Castillo: Isn't Marawi siege act of rebellion?)
'Passive institution'
"You don't tell us the facts you want to be put (in the martial law report). You know this is a passive institution, we cannot go out like the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] or the police to gather the facts. We are not in that business," Bersamin said.
Cortez, however, said, "Our basis is to dispute the facts upon which the declaration is based. As a general rule, we are not duty-bound to prove our negative allegation and it is up to the government to prove the basis of the declaration of martial law."
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco echoed Bersamin's line of thinking in his own interpellation of lawyer Marlon Manuel, who is representing the Marawi group of petitioners.
"There's no attachment at all in your petition of any document that would tell the Court that there's probably no truth to the statements in the proclamation. You have only made a very bare assertion that there is no sufficient or actual basis, and this, to me, is not proof at all," Velasco said.
Manuel replied that what they are alleging in their petition is the "non-existence of factual basis," so they will be unable to present documents to prove that.
Velasco pounded on Manuel, asking whether they exerted effort to verify the truth in the facts cited in Duterte's martial law report.
"Only to the extent we can," Manuel said, explaining that the petitioners have been at the receiving end of the proclamation.
When Velasco asked again if they verified facts, Manuel said that as residents of Marawi City, they had to evacuate to Iligan City after the crisis. 
Checks and balances
In an interview after the oral arguments, Manuel said the SC should have the power to find the evidence or at least compel evidence from the relevant government agencies, precisely because they were given the constitutional power to review factual basis for the proclamation.
"The SC should have their own procedure. If the Court requires the presence of the Secretrary of Defense, they can do that, because they have been impleaded, they can be summoned anytime," Manuel said.
"The 1987 Constitution, precisely may checks and balances mechanism na nilagay kasi sa karanasan natin hindi mapagkakatiwalaan ang Presidente noon na naglagay sa Pilipinas sa mahabang panahon ng martial law, kaya nagkaroon sa Constitution ng maraming layers ng review mechanisms," Manuel said.
(The 1987 Constitution has a checks-and-balances mechanism precisely because of our experience where we could not trust the President then, who put the Philippines under martial rule for a long time, that's why the Constitution has many layers of review mechanisms.)
Nevertheless, Velasco still asked the petitioners to submit to the SC documents which will support at least their allegations that some of the statements in Duterte's martial law reports are false.
Hearsay evidence
The main basis of the petitions in belying some of the claims in the report – such as the denied takeover of the Amai Pakpak Medical Center – are fact-check reports from news outfits.
Solicitor General Jose Calida had said in his consolidated comment, however, that news reports are inadmissible evidence because they are hearsay.
Asked how he thinks the petitioners fared on Day 1 of the oral arguments, Calida said: "I've seen better days."
Calida is also set to argue before the High Court that the petitions suffer from "fatal procedural defects" that warrant their outright dismissals. One of these technical loopholes, Calida said, is the absence of an Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) number from one of the petitioners' lawyers, constitutionalist Christian Monsod.
"This is a very important issue of public national interest, I don't think the SC will look at technicalities," Manuel said. –

Gadgets within 'safety zone,' hands-free calls now allowed while driving in PH

MANILA – The Department of Transportation released on Wednesday, June 14, the revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), which had been suspended after causing confusion and complaints from motorists.
The new IRR includes:
·         The concept of a “safety zone,” which re-defines line of sight
·         Exemption through “hands-free” use of phones
·         The plan of the DOTr to conduct an information campaign on the law, as demanded by Congress
DOTr Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Leah Quiambao said in a press conference the revised IRR will be published in the next few days, and will take effect 15 days after its publication, or by July 2017.
The law will be enforced by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in Manila, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) nationwide.
Drivers may now mount gadgets as long as they do not obstruct their line of sight. They can do this by putting the gadgets within the "safety zone" – 4 inches up from the dashboard.
Within this safety zone, drivers may glance at their phones to use navigation applications or quickly read text messages when they are stopped by traffic lights. If drivers glance at their phones outside this zone, they will be apprehended.
The also clarifies that phones may be used hands-free as long as drivers keep their eyes on the road as long as their phones are within the safety zone.
They can put their phones on loudspeaker mode or use earphones to take calls and listen to music.
Quiambao said the DOTr plans to launch television and radio announcements to disseminate the new rules. It is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for a nationwide information campaign.
Asked about distractions coming from sources other than mobile phones, Quiambao acknowledged the ADDA is “limited” in scope, and was written to respond only to distractions caused by mobile phones.
This means rosaries and toys placed on dashboards of vehicles, as well as built-in televisions, are not covered by the law.
Jeepney drivers may also turn to their riders at the back of their vehicles when accepting payment and giving change.
She clarified that they cannot produce an IRR that is beyond the scope of law. Still, Quiambao said, the DOTr tried its best to produce the new IRR upon consultation with affected sectors, such as drivers of public utility vehicles, Grab and Uber drivers, and private vehicle owners. –

DOT urged to penalize ad agencies giving 'unoriginal' works

MANILA -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) should penalize advertising agencies that give "unoriginal”" concepts so as not to compromise their integrity as a government agency, a senator on Wednesday, June 14,
"We should start penalizing ad agencies for giving our departments, especially the DOT, ripped off creative handles or not-so-original work," Sen. Nancy Binay, chair of the Senate Committee on Tourism, said in a statement.
"It compromises the integrity of the government agency, as well as the ad agency itself," she added.
Binay made this remark after the DOT launched its newest campaign advertisement on Monday which drew flak from netizens who claimed that it was "copied" from a South African ad in 2014.
She said that advertising contracts between the DOT, including its attached agencies, and ad agencies should have a legal clause or a disclaimer which stipulates that the agency handling a particular campaign would either be penalized or not be paid if the ad copy, concept, or peg was found to be copied.
"Tama lang na maging accountable sila di lamang sa DOT kundi sa taong bayan (They should be held accountable not only to the DOT but also to the public) Every time the ad is aired, taxpayers' money is being spent," Binay said.
Meanwhile, she urged the DOT to be more discerning on concepts, storyboards, and drafts that ad agencies present to them.
"Nasa DOT ang final say ng mga in-execute na ads at mga collateral, dahil nasa kanilang area of responsibility ito (The DOT has the final say in executing the ads and collateral because it falls under their area of responsibility). It also saves them the time and effort in defending the material that comes out," Binay said.
She also expressed hope that the next DOT advertisements would not meet the same fate as previous advertisements.
This is not the first time that the DOT and its agencies on record became controversial.
DOT and ad agency Campaigns and Grey were also criticized in 2010 for its "Pilipinas kay Ganda" logo, which netizens said was lifted from Poland's tourism logo.
DOT’s "It's more fun in the Philippines" slogan also became controversial in 2012 when it was said to resemble the "It’s more fun in Switzerland" tagline.
Both the DOT and its current ad agency McCann Worldgroup Philippines on Monday denied copying the South African ad and stood by it being based on a true story of a Japanese retiree in the Philippines. -- PNA

Efforts to make PH tourist spots PWD friendly ongoing

MANILA -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday, June 13, assured that concerned government agencies are working hand in hand to assure that tourism establishments are sensitive to the needs of both the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
“There’s a constant effort to make us really PWD friendly,” DOT Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre told the Philippine News Agency in an interview.
Alegre made this remark a day after the DOT released its new campaign advertisement “Sights” which featured a blind, elderly retiree from Japan enjoying his stay in various destinations the Philippines.
“The ad does put focus on that and really it’s to show that we take care of them (elderly, PWDs) here. We want to keep doing an effort to upgrade the way we take care of them,” Alegre said.
He acknowledged that although the Philippines was behind its Asian neighbors in terms of PWD-friendly facilities, there are several Philippine establishments that comply with world-class standards.
“Nowadays, a local government unit does not issue (permits) if you don’t have a ramp to entry for the wheelchair. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is doing its job, we just have to be able to enforce it better,” he added.
He said that the DOT is coordinating with the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Transportation and Social Welfare and Development to assure that tourism establishments are indeed PWD-friendly.
Citing data from the Philippine Retirement Authority, Alegre said that there are around 27,000 foreign retirees from 107 countries that have chosen, and lived in the Philippines through the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV).
“We know that there is a market of retirees who want to come to the Philippines,” the tourism official said. -- PNA
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